by Graeme Burk & Robert Smith?



370pp/$19.95/March 2020

Who Is the Doctor 2
Cover by Natalie Racz

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 2012, Doctor Who fans Graeme Burk and Robert Smith? collaborated on the book Who Is the Doctor, which didn't really address the mystery of the title, but rather offered an excellent fans'-eye view of the long running television series, mostly focusing on the first six series of the rebooted Doctor Who, although also discussing "Classic" Doctor Who in their introduction. As may be expected, in the second volume, Who Is the Doctor 2, they pick up where they left off, exploring the seventh through eleventh series of the show, which gives them a chance to look at Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Jodie Whitaker, and the War Doctor.

Not surprisingly, Who Is the Doctor 2 follows the same format as Who Is the Doctor. Although the authors cover every episode of Doctor Who, they do not provide synopses of those episodes, expecting that anyone who has picked up a copy of thei book is enough of a fan to have watched the episodes. THe commentary, therefore, serves to provide reminders about what happens within the episode as they discuss how it fits into the overall series and the trivia and minutiae behind the episodes. The entries are divided into various sections, including, but not limited to, a brief "The Big Idea," which serves as a reminder of what the episode is about, "Roots and References," which looks at source material for an episode, "Adventure sin Time and Space," which offers call backs to earlier Doctor Who episodes, "Who Is the Doctor?," which offers a look at the role the Doctor plays in the episode, followed by "The Doctor and X," with X being the episode's companion. There are several more such categories which allow the authors to systematically look at each episode, bringing to light items of interest for the reader.

Burk and Smith? display an encyclopedic knowledge of the television series and they are careful to distinguish facts and trivia about the show from their own opinions, however they are not shy about sharing those opinions. Even when the reader may disagree with their conclusions about episodes (and they don't always agree with each other), they have established themselves as experts on the show and therefore the reader is willing to give credence to those opinions and consider what Burk and Smith? are saying, even when they disagree with the reader or each other.

Some of the most interesting entries are the ones that deal with episodes that are widely disregarded, such as the eighth series episode "Kill the Moon," which the authors do mock ("The moon is an egg"). In this case, Smith? discusses the question of whether this episode is using the moon as an egg metaphor to address the question of abortion, which he only partially answers, and Burk beginning with the perhaps controversial statement that he loves the episode, even while admitting that the science is bad and the metaphor awkward, but Burk explains what he loves about the episode, even if the episode is "not satisfying" and "messy as hell," but perhaps those are assets when considering an episode of Doctor Who, which has never been noted for its internal consistency or scientific accuracy.

The volume, as the first one, offers a clever retrospective of the years covered, going well beyond the standard synopsis and bringing the authors' love and knowledge of the series to their readers. In addition to the sort of trivia included in many books of this nature, they also offer cogent analysis, not only of the episodes, but of the actors and the production. Who Is the Doctor 2 is a welcome addition for any fan of the Doctor.

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